Raby

Autumn is a beautiful time to enjoy a visit to Raby. The strong seasonal colours of reds, oranges, yellows and browns can be seen in splendour around our circular waterfall trail at High Force and the Walled Gardens at Raby Castle. With that slight nip in the air, Autumn is the perfect time to cosy up with a book or wrap up in your favourite scarf and head out for a walk. As the seasons shift there will also be some exciting displays on the wildlife calendar to watch out for across the Park.

Here are our top things to look out for this Autumn across the Estate:

 

Autumn Colours

September, October and November is a beautiful time to experience Raby in its full autumnal glory. Enjoy a walk around the Deer Park and our Walled Gardens at Raby Castle and see the seasonal shift of the leaves as they turn to browns and golds. Or pull on your walking boots and explore our circular route at High Force to experience the bursts of colour on your way to the waterfall, a brilliant contrast against our conifer trees. Pick up a pinecone or a leaf to take home as a keepsake of your visit. After the lightness and brightness of Summer, Autumn really brings the landscape to life through its bold dark colours, nature’s final hurrah before Winter.

 

Deer Rutting Season

The rutting season, or ‘the rut’ is part of the deer’s annual cycle at Raby. Every Autumn the males compete for the attention of females by putting on an impressive display. People come from miles around to see and hear the incredible clash of antlers and the roar as the males make their challenge. We do please ask visitors not to approach the deer during this time, but you can still see the spectacle from a safe distance so bring your binoculars!

(c) Peter Gunton

 

Migration and Hibernation

As the weather turns colder, birds across the Estate will start their migration to warmer climates for the Winter season. Swallows will depart our shores and make their way south, as other birds are gearing up to do the same. In Autumn fieldfare, redwing and bramblings will make their way from the cold climates of Scandinavia and Russia to the relative warmth of the UK. The striking red berries of hawthorn and rowan provide food for these Winter visitors. You might spot squirrels gathering their supplies for the long months ahead too. Keep your eyes peeled along the River Tees and you might be lucky enough to see a salmon journeying in from the Atlantic Ocean making the perilous journey upstream to its spawning grounds.

Swan taking off out of the water

(c) Peter Gunton

 

Stargazing

We are incredibly lucky in the North Pennines to have a large number of Dark Sky Discovery Sites including at Cow Green Reservoir and Low Force Waterfall, ideal locations to see the stars. Our High Force Hotel runs Stargazing Suppers throughout the Autumn months where visitors can enjoy a three-course meal followed by a guided stargazing experience. Or why not download an app for your own evening of discovery? Learning to read the stars is an incredible skill that can aid navigation and tell you more about our universe. Or simply go out to enjoy the peaceful spectacle of the constellations above you. If you’re lucky you may even get to witness the Northern Lights which can occasionally be seen from the North Pennines. Find out where your nearest Dark Sky Discovery Site is.

(c) Gary Lintern

 

Halloween

We love Halloween at Raby. This October Half Term our Walled Gardens will be ghoulishly dressed for an exciting spooky trail. You might spy our woodland sculptures hiding round a corner so beware of scary spiders and our wicked witch. This year we’re inviting families to bring their carved pumpkins to Raby to be displayed around the gardens, so get your creative hat on! We can’t wait to see your designs. If you’re feeling extra brave, come along to our After Dark event and experience the trail at night.

Woodland sculpture surrounded by pumpkins

 

Water Levels

The rising water levels with increased rainfall during Autumn will add to the spectacular sights of Cauldron Snout and High and Low Force Waterfall. This time of year is when High Force is at its most powerful, flowing with tremendous speed before plunging 21 metres into the pool beneath. If we have had a prolonged period of severe cold, you might even see it freeze.

High Force, County Durham

 

Autumn Flavours

As the weather gets colder we will be phasing out our Summer salads and staples in place of an Autumn palette at High Force Hotel and our Stables Cafe at Raby Castle. Cosy up with a delicious hot chocolate or pick from our selection of warming dishes. Fresh soups will be prepared every day at the Stables Cafe, along with baked jacket potatoes and our Raby beef chilli. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available too, just ask our friendly staff to advise.

curry

 

We’d love to see your Autumn pictures at Raby.
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Our Raby team are hard at work at Gainford Hall undergoing vital repairs to restore the Elizabethan manor and its beautiful Dovecote. The Hall is currently on Historic England’s Heritage-at-risk register and hasn’t seen any major restoration for over 100 years. Its story stretches all the way back to the early 1600s when it was originally built for the Vicar of Gainford, Reverend John Cradock. We want to save this remarkable building and return it to its former glory so it can be enjoyed as a residential property by future generations.

The restoration project is being overseen by our Buildings Manager Phillip Dent, Maintenance Manager Michael Bennett and our experienced team who have been undertaking the ongoing repairs which include re-roofing, chimney repairs and leadwork. There is a huge task ahead in replacing and restoring all of the lead windows and our latest apprentices Jack Addison and Daniel McCauley have been learning the trade and proving invaluable with stonework and joinery repairs. This project seeks to maintain as many of the Hall’s original features as possible and we are committed to using local suppliers including C.S Scaffolders and Middleton Forge.

Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett, Maintenance Manager at Raby Estates

These important renovations for Gainford Hall are due to be completed in early 2022 and Savills are now marketing the property as a residential let. We hope this future use will secure tenants who will take pride in maintaining this historic building and we believe a residential use will create minimal disturbance for neighbours, with little intervention to the historic building itself. We are also hoping to convert the outer farm buildings to employment use which will bring more jobs to the area.

To find out more about our other restoration projects and future developments at Raby visit our Development and Property pages.

Gainford Hall

Raby Estates have welcomed a new full time Ranger to join our team over at High Force Hotel and Waterfall. Andy Gibson started with us two months ago and you might catch him on the Upper Teesdale Estate at places like Cow Green reservoir and Low Force Waterfall. We caught up with Andy to find out more about his role and why he wanted to join the team at Raby.

 

Tell us about yourself and your background

I did a degree in Zoology at Aberystwyth University. I’ve always had an interest in animals and wildlife which led me to study Zoology. Coming out of University I then moved into the practical side of work and took a job down in South Devon in the Torbay area where I worked for 2 years, learning about how to be a Ranger, the practical maintenance and about the wildlife, and all of the other aspects of the job. After that I chose to go travelling for a few years, so I headed out to Australia, Asia and saw as much as I could. After my adventure, I then came back to the UK and worked in a few different positions before getting back into the conservation side of things at Raby.

Andy Gibson

What is the role of a Ranger?

The role of a Ranger can be very varied. For me it means dealing with the public and making sure people are behaving in a responsible manner and being safe. It also involves educating people in the area. We get lots of visitors to Upper Teesdale, especially between High and Low Force. People come and we want to try and give them as much information about the area as possible, and make sure they can enjoy it in the best way possible. Other aspects of the job that I’m involved with include the fishing and river access permits. We’re also starting to run some guided talks up at High Force, to provide an educational aspect.

At Raby we have a lot of tenant farmers who I’m hoping to work with, as well as the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Natural England and other groups or land owners nearby. From engaging with the public and local organisations, to looking after wildlife, my role can be anything in between, I just go where I’m needed.

 

What attracted you to working at Raby?

My initial impression about Raby, after undertaking some research and speaking to the team, was that it sounded like a really interesting place to work. Looking at their vision for the future and the speed at which they are progressing is really exciting. Raby are expanding at quite a rate and are looking to head in a new direction in terms of the large-scale Rising Developments at Raby Castle and the recent renovations at High Force Hotel & Waterfall. Their core values include a big focus on sustainability, supporting the community and preserving the natural environment which really appealed to me. Everyone that I spoke to at Raby were very passionate about what they do and had that drive to achieve great things.

The River Tees Flowing Over High Force Waterfall Upper Teesdale County Durham UK

What have you enjoyed most since starting the role?

The best part of my job is getting to open and close up the waterfall route every morning and night. Having five minutes alone down at the bottom of the waterfall with the peace and quiet and watching the water is excellent. It’s a really nice part of the job. Apart from that I love the variety, there are so many different things I get to do. Each day is different to the next and it takes me all the way up and down the Teesdale Estate, so I get to see a lot of different places and wildlife. At the moment I’m enjoying being involved in as much as possible and seeing where it leads to. I’m really excited about all of the different prospects and the future that I might have here at Raby.

To find out more about our team at Raby, view our other blogs below, or visit our vacancies page to see our latest opportunities.

Meet our Events Executive Sophie Brown

Meet our Castle Curator Julie Biddlecombe-Brown

Meet one of our Volunteers

Meet Mike our Children’s Castle Tour Guide

You may have spotted our bright Raby redcurrants in the Walled Gardens this summer. Our Estate Chef, Tom Parry has transformed these into a layered tray bake, inspired by German Coffee shops, that you can make at home – perfect for an afternoon teatime treat.

Preparation time: 1 hour

Serves: 12 portions

Ingredients

For the berry filling

  • 200gr Raby red currants
  • 50g Caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp Corn flour

For the cake

  • 220g Plain flour
  • 4g Baking powder
  • 2g Cinnamon
  • 50g Ground almonds
  • 200g Caster sugar
  • 80g Butter, melted
  • 2 Free- range eggs
  • 40g Yoghurt – thinned with 2tbs milk

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a rectangular baking tin (approximately 26cm x 20cm/10½in x 8in).
  2. In a saucepan combine the fruit with 50ml/2fl oz water. Bring the fruit just to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  3. In a mixing bowl combine the caster sugar with the cornflour. Stir into the fruit and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and jammy. Set aside to cool.
  4. For the crumble topping, add the flour to a mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs and no large lumps of butter are left. Stir in the sugar and set aside.
  5. For the cake, in a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir in the ground almonds until thoroughly combined.
  6. In another bowl beat together the sugar with the melted butter, eggs, yoghurt and milk mixture until thoroughly mixed. Stir into the flour mixture just to combine. Don’t overmix it but watch out for big lumps of unmixed flour.
  7. Spoon two-thirds of the mixture into the lined tin, gently spreading out evenly to the corners. Spoon the cooled fruit mixture evenly over the top.
  8. Using a teaspoon, dot the remaining cake batter evenly on top of the fruit. This will not cover the entire cake but make little hillocks with gaps in between.
  9. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top, filling in all the gaps to cover the fruit.
  10. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the crumble topping is golden-brown. Allow to cool for ten minutes in the tin, then transfer the cake in its paper to a cooling rack.

Download Raby Redcurrant Crumble Traybake

Recipe by Estate Chef Tom Parry

We caught up with Annie Garthwaite ahead of her debut book launch to find out more about her heroine, the fascinating Cecily Nevill. Cecily was born at Raby Castle in the 15th-century and lived through the famous historical period of the War of the Roses. Born a Lancastrian, but a Yorkist by marriage, Cecily had to navigate the challenging political landscape of medieval England. Becoming a mother to two kings of England she was always close to the throne, but never highlighted as a key player. We want to delve deeper to bring Cecily’s story to light and find out more about the woman who once walked the halls of Raby.

Cecily book with author Annie Garthwaite

What inspired you to write about Cecily? Why is she such an interesting character?

It started in school. My comprehensive wasn’t the most progressive in the world, but I was blessed with a wonderful history teacher, Keith Hill. It was The Wars of the Roses for ‘A’ Level and the stand out figure for me then was Cecily’s youngest son, Richard III – the hunchback, the tyrant, the child-murderer. I was about to write him off. “Was he though?” Keith asked. “Who says so?” That’s when the link between ‘history’ and ‘story’ became clear to me. Stories shift depending who is telling them, the past is the ‘raw material’ of story, open to interpretation, investigation, retelling.  “Read that,” said Keith Hill and lobbed a copy of Rosemary Hawley Jarman’s novel We Speak No Treason, at me. It gave me a new Richard. Not a murdering tyrant, just a man making hard decisions in tough times. I was entranced.

As I got older though, it was the strong women around Richard who captured my interest – Marguerite of Anjou, Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth Woodville. But one woman kept eluding me. Richard’s mother, Cecily.  Where was she?

Well, you might say Shakespeare ‘did for Cecily’, no less than for her son. Her appearances in his history plays are brief. She has no political agenda, exercises no power and serves no dramatic purpose other than to curse her misbegotten offspring. Shakespeare’s Cecily is old, pious, embittered and dull, and that damning characterisation has, unfortunately, has stuck.

Nothing could be further from the truth of course. Cecily lived through eighty years of tumultuous history, close to the beating heart of power. She mothered kings, created a dynasty, brought her family through civil war. She met victories and defeats in equal measure and, in face of all, lived on. Last woman standing. How could I not want to tell her story?

 

What was Cecily’s life like growing up at Raby?

Raby was, of course, the principal seat of Cecily’s family and would have been her home growing up. She’d have felt secure here, I imagine, at the heart of a powerful family with close connections to the Crown. During her time at Raby her life expectations would have set; an advantageous marriage, a position of power, a close relationship to the crown.

Cecily’s mother, Joan Beaufort, was Henry IV’s half-sister (they shared a father in John of Gaunt). Her father was Ralph Earl of Westmorland, one of the first of England’s nobility to support Henry IV’s bid for the throne and his deposition of Richard II. It seems to me that Ralph’s prestigious marriage to the king’s half-sister was, at least in part, a king’s reward for Ralph’s support.  So, I think Cecily would have grown from childhood to understood that support for the Crown would be rewarded with security and prestige. It’s ironic, too, that she was brought up in the heart of a Lancastrian family at Raby, though she was destined to become matriarch of York, Lancaster’s rival in the Wars of the Roses.

Rose-of-Raby-Room_window-seat

This window seat at Raby Castle is sometimes referred to as the Rose of Raby Room after Cecily

How were Cecily and Richard Duke of York betrothed, and what was their relationship like during the course of their marriage?

Cecily’s was arguably the most brilliant of a series of dazzling marriages that Ralph and Joan made for their children. Cecily was married late in 1423 at the age of eight to Richard Plantagenet, heir to the earldom of Cambridge and dukedom of York. It was a promising match, but not without risk for, as well as being heir to prestigious titles, Richard was also the son of a traitor. His father, Richard Earl of Cambridge, had been executed by Henry V in 1415 for his part in the Southampton plot. To secure his inheritance, the young Richard would have to win the favour of the present King Henry VI. Unless Henry confirmed Richard’s titles at his coming of age, he would not receive them and Cecily’s brilliant marriage would have lost its lustre. One can only imagine that Ralph took upon himself a mission to make a ‘king’s man’ of Richard, to imbibe him with Lancastrian loyalties, to ensure his smooth accession to his titles and, effectively, co-opt the wealth and prestige of those titles into his own family.

Two years later, both the brilliance of the marriage and its risks became greater still. When Richard’s maternal uncle Edmund Mortimer, the fifth earl of March, died childless in 1425, Richard became heir to a vast Mortimer inheritance. All good. However, that inheritance also brought with it a claim to the English throne that rivalled that of the present king. Henry VI took his royal claim from Edward III’s third son, John of Gaunt. Richard, meanwhile, could claim direct descent from Edward’s second son, Lionel Duke of Clarence, and his fourth, Edmund Duke of York.

The fact of Richard’s royal claim dogged their married life and though conspicuously loyal to Henry VI, Richard was always under suspicion. Despite this, Cecily’s closeness to Richard is evident. They spent time together whenever possible and she accompanied him on his travels to France and Ireland when royal duties took him there. She bore him twelve children, lost five in infancy, but succeeded in bringing four sons and three daughters to adulthood. She had a long wait for children, however. Though Richard and Cecily began their married life together in around 1431, she had to wait eight years, until 1439, to deliver a living child (a daughter, Anne) and another three to bring forth a son (Edward) that survived infancy. This must have been challenging. Of the many demands placed upon a medieval aristocratic woman, the greatest was to bear children. But there is no evidence that Cecily’s early failure in this regard led to any fracture in her marriage. She and Richard appear to have remained close during this time and, since there is no evidence that Richard owned any bastards, it seems likely he was faithful or, at least, discreet. Fortunately, after a slow start, Cecily’s childbearing potential – and her ability to deliver strong sons – became one of her most valuable assets.

As Richard’s loss of royal favour became increasingly serious, Cecily shows every sign of striving to revive it. Like Richard, she seems to been at pains to persevere in loyalty to the crown for as long as possible. In 1453, for example, she petitions Queen Marguerite on her husband’s behalf, begging no favour but that he be returned to the king’s good graces. However, it seems to me that, as matters progressed from bad to worse, Cecily must have come to recognise that she and Richard faced a stark choice – either to take power or be destroyed by it. As a wife and mother, and as a woman of high noble birth,  I can well imagine she might have reached the conclusion that the only place of safety for her husband – and by extension, her sons – was on the throne.

Depiction of Cecily Nevill

Depiction of Cecily in the Chapel at Raby Castle

What was Cecily’s character like?

Cecily is often referred to as ‘Proud Cis’. I can see why, but it’s too simple. Pride infers a certain arrogance and disdain that I don’t think was part of her character. More accurately I would say that, by the time she left Raby as a married woman at the age of around 15, Cecily would have understood her privileged and prestigious place in the world very well. She was aware and justifiably proud of both her parentage and her marriage, ready to make the most of her advantages as one of England’s principal ladies. Having come from one family that held itself close to the crown, she’d have felt ready, I think, to embark on the serious work of creating another. Everything I’ve learned about Cecily suggests to me that her intention was to raise a family that would continue to serve the royal house of Lancaster. Why not? And only when her hand was forced by circumstances and the weakness of Henry VI’s rule did that change.

 

Which other locations did Cecily travel to and live over the course of her lifetime?

Cecily’s time at Raby was, in fact, quite short. She left her childhood home in 1430 when she was about 15 years old and never lived there again. She and Richard had vast estates across England, Wales and Ireland so, as for many medieval nobles, their life was fairly peripatetic. However, they spent a good deal of time in two key locations, which seem to have acted as their headquarters. From Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire they managed their English estates. From Ludlow on the Welsh borders, they managed their lands in Wales and Ireland. Several of her children were born (and sadly buried) at Fotheringhay as are, of course, both Cecily and Richard. In her widowhood she tended to stay closer to London, either in her town house of Baynards’ Castle on the Thames or in various locations around Suffolk where, it seems, she enjoyed the company of a community of intellectual women. She, of course, also spent time with Richard in France – Rouen for the most part – and in Ireland, and visited the Burgundian Court on at least one occasion.

 

Throughout her life, Cecily embodied many different roles such as a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a duchess, a friend and rival – how did she establish her loyalty at a time when friends and family were on opposing sides?

It seems to me that the great drama of Cecily’s life stems from the fact that she is born into Lancaster and marries into York. It begs a question we all have to answer in our own lives, I think; which family owns our greatest loyalty, the one we’re born into or the one we marry into?

Cecily’s loyalty to Richard and their children over-rode all others, but it can’t have been easy. It always seems particularly poignant to me that Humphrey Duke of Buckingham, the husband of Cecily’s sister Anne, was killed in battle fighting against Cecily’s son at the Battle of Northampton. Anne was nearest in age to Cecily and they seem to have been close. Moreover, Cecily was with Anne when news of Humphrey’s death was brought home to her. Imagine; two sisters, one rejoicing in her son’s victory, the other mourning the death of her husband. It’s one of the scenes in my book I found most challenging to write.

I’ve heard the Wars of the Roses described many times as the greatest of all family squabbles. It was exactly that, and Cecily always at the heart of it. But it seems to me that, once she realised that the only way for her husband and children to be safe was to take the throne, she was determined to set all other considerations aside to achieve that goal. Some people might call that ruthless but, actually, I think it’s a mother’s natural instinct to defend her children at all costs. In that regard at least, Cecily isn’t so different from other women.

Raby Castle

Raby Castle, Cecily’s childhood home

At a time when women’s roles were limited and men were in positions of power, how did Cecily use her influence and navigate her way to achieving her ambitions?

It’s easy to assume that women in the middle ages had little power or influence. In fact, that’s not the case. Medieval women, especially those of the aristocracy, or in what we might today think of as the middle classes, had freedoms their Victorian counterparts, or even my own post-war mother, could only dream of. They could own property, run businesses, take up trades. Widows especially could achieve significant economic independence. Men ruled, certainly, but in the margins, women could exercise agency, assume authority, push boundaries. Women of Cecily’s status, with huge households and vast estates, would be responsible for enterprises similar in size and complexity to mid-sized FTSE companies. They would be highly literate, understand finance and the law, have a firm grasp of politics.  They’d be, in short, women of business. At the same time, they’d be expected to support their husbands’ political careers and advance her family’s interests within intricate and hierarchical social networks.

Cecily was adept at all these things and, certainly, appears to have been a trusted confidant and advisor to both her husband and her kingly sons. In the early days of Edward IV’s reign foreign ambassadors wrote home to their masters that Cecily ‘could rule the king in all things’ and that, if they wanted to do business with England, they would have to do it first with Cecily. Historians note that Cecily seems to have emerged as a political power to be reckoned with after Richard’s death. That’s true, but I like to think she sharpened her skills working at Richard’s side. I see them as perfectly matched in intellect, ambition and skill and, when he died, she stepped out from his shadow as a confident and adept politician in her own right.

 

Cecily lived through many horrors during her lifetime. For example, the brutal deaths of her husband and children, watching from the side-lines while family killed family. How did these experiences change her and how did she find the physical and mental will to keep surviving?

Oh, that’s such a tough question to answer! What we do know is that Cecily does survive all of that. She sees her granddaughter become queen of England and seems, to a point at least and in public, to have reconciled herself to Henry VII’s reign. She dies at 80, ten years after the death of her youngest son at Bosworth, outlived by only two of her children.

I think it’s hard for us in the twenty first century to understand how the medieval mind dealt with death and disaster. I sense a struggle in Cecily’s mind always between bending to God’s will and asserting her own. In that sense, at least, she seems to me quite ‘modern’. My mother used to say that God helps those who help themselves, and I think Cecily would have agreed. I’d say she believed in her family’s right to rule, both as a woman of faith and as a pragmatic politician. That means the fall of her family must have shaken her to the very foundations.

It’s intriguing to me that, when her body was exhumed during the reign of her great-granddaughter Elizabeth I, there was found, tied around her neck, a papal pardon penned in fine Roman hand. Cecily must have acquired that pardon during her lifetime, and paid good money for it too. She must have believed (or gambled?) that, at the day of judgement, it would allow her to stand before God, if not justified, at least redeemed. Perhaps it was her way of saying that she surrendered to fate of her family and whatever role God’s will might have played in it.

 

What can we learn from Cecily today?

Too often film and fiction revert to stereotypes when it comes to medieval women. They’re either objects of chivalry, pampered and adored, or they’re repressed voiceless victims. Neither is accurate. In my novel, I’ve tried to deliver a version of Cecily that’s closer to the 15th century truth. Along the way, I realised she’s not too far from 21st century truth either.

For much of my life (I didn’t start writing Cecily until I was fifty-five) I’ve worked in business. For many years I worked for large American multi-nationals. For the last twenty I ran my own business advising them. I often found myself the only woman at the big table, finding ways to get men to do what I wanted, needed or thought they ought to do. I think Cecily had those skills in abundance and could have taught me a thing or two!

Yes, Cecily was a woman of her time – of a pre-reformation, pre-feminist, Catholic, male-dominated world. But she was also a woman we can feel kinship with today; fighting with words when swords were denied her, exercising whatever authority was given to her and always pushing for more. Testing boundaries, holding her own. She faced many of the questions women still struggle with today. What comes first, love or ambition? How do we protect our family? How far will our courage take us?

 

If you could go back in time and ask Cecily herself one question, what would it be?

Just one? That’s tough!  Okay, it would be this:  ‘Cecily, where are your grandsons?’

We all know that Edward IV’s sons ‘disappeared’ from the Tower in the early years of Richard III’s reign. What happened to them next is one of English history’s greatest mysteries. I’d love to know what Cecily knew about it. Although perhaps, in the end, she knew no more than you or I.

Cecily book cover


Annie Garthwaite’s debut novel, CECILY was published by Penguin on 29 July 2021 and is available in our Stables Shop at Raby Castle.

Raby Castle and our Stables Shop are currently open Tuesday – Sunday from 11am.

If you’d like to visit Cecily’s childhood home and find out more about the Nevill family, book a Castle, Park and Gardens ticket.

 Raby Castle, which has stood as a landmark within County Durham for 700 years, has announced the full extent of its significant investment to enhance the visitor experience of the Castle, Park and Gardens, securing it as an important resource for the local community.

The ambitious plans for a two-year major development programme, which were passed by Durham County Council in December last year, will restore and preserve historic buildings within the park and gardens, which have been without purpose for decades.

The development, which has been over three years in the planning, will also support an enhanced visitor journey for Raby Castle, Park and Gardens – providing contemporary spaces for enjoyment but also creating new vistas to the castle within a hub of activity.

The dynamic scheme, known as The Rising, will re-purpose heritage buildings as well as introduce new structures to provide stylish events and exhibition spaces, retail and dining experiences and a visitor information hub – which will all be available without having to pay an entry fee.

Development CGI

The Rising Development

Newly designed walled gardens, soft landscaping, and new entrance car park will reposition Raby Castle Park and Gardens as a historical and cultural asset for local communities to be proud of.

The first phase of The Rising scheme will also see the design and build of a bespoke children’s adventure play area to the north of the castle, on the site of the present Christmas tree plantation. The playground attraction, planned to be open for Easter 2022 will also include a refreshment kiosk with a stargazing deck on the roof, perched amongst the trees.

Lord Barnard, whose family home is Raby Castle, has been determined, since his tenure began in 2016, to make the historic landmark an enjoyable and accessible haven for local people, as well as those visiting the county nationally and internationally.

“The feeling was that Raby Castle and Park has been a visitor attraction for a long time and visitors even since the 18th Century have come here, but somehow it seemed to me that Raby was still very much under the radar, and it has a huge amount to share.

“One of the first things we did was change the paywall, so visitors could enjoy the facilities as well as part of the castle grounds without having to buy a ticket, which felt to us like a much more welcoming experience.

“So, our motivation for this scheme is to really open up the castle and the estate to a great many more people to enjoy. Raby Castle is the flagship of the dale and we wanted to create something that would make people really proud, where they can bring their friends and family and enjoy everything we have to offer,” said Lord Barnard.

Lord and Lady Barnard

Lord and Lady Barnard

The Rising will provide visitors with an enhanced experience, and also provide new, and potentially unexpected experiences to engage, inform and inspire. From the point at which a visitor leaves the new car park, they will be guided naturally towards a hub of activity.

“If you’d arrived in the 1970s, you’d have thought it was a nice place for a cup of tea – that was fine for then, but now it’s time to move on. We felt, apart from opening up the castle’s potential, we also really needed to look after people in a better way as well.

“So, the new Vinery café and restaurant will provide what we hope will be an attractive place to enjoy good food with a stunning view of the castle in the foreground, before taking a stroll through the new Duchess Walk – and all without having to pay for castle entry.

“With a new generation it is time for a new beginning, and we want to make sure that Raby is preserved for future generations to enjoy as well as our own,” said Lord Barnard.

 

The renovation and development of The Rising will be an important two-year phase of a progressive five-year business plan – bringing together a programme of conservation, restoration, repair and upgrades to historic buildings such as Gainford Hall, Raby Castle Park & Gardens, Unthank, Spring Hill Cottage, The Scar Farm, Bowlees Farm, Beck Foot Farm and Hilton Hall.

 

“It is a huge project because of the number of beautiful and significant buildings within The Rising development – we couldn’t just have picked off bits and left the rest because these historic buildings would just have decayed beyond repair.

“I have memories of these buildings from my childhood, such as heaving bales of hay into the Dutch Barn when I was working on the farm during the summer but really these buildings haven’t had a lot of use for 50 years. It’s really time to bring them back to life for a wider audience to enjoy,” said Lord Barnard.

CGI of the Duchess' Walk within The Rising development

Duchess’ Walk

A fundamental strand of the renovation project is a commitment to greater engagement with local communities. Training and community educational programmes, as well as social and charitable events will continue to be supported.

Duncan Peake, Raby’s CEO said, “We will continue the tradition of supporting the younger generation by providing apprenticeships, placements and training programmes.

“New volunteering and work experience opportunities within Raby Estate itself have already been created and external relationships with agencies such as Durham County Council, Visit Co Durham, Historic England and the North Pennines AONBs will be fostered to ensure Raby continues to support its local communities.”

“This is a new era for Raby Castle, Park and Gardens allied not only to the opportunities presented by the introduction of high-quality new housing in Staindrop and Gainford, but also to a stated ambition by Raby Estates to greatly increase visitor engagement with the castle and gardens, heightening awareness and understanding of the heritage building and appreciating its value as a vital cultural landmark.

“While this development plan includes the creation of new revenue streams and the expansion of existing ones, helping to support the up-keep of the listed buildings and the Registered Park, it is also driven by the celebration of the intrinsic character and uniqueness that is Raby and we hope the community will be proud of the castle and everything it has to offer,” said Duncan.

Phase one of The Rising development programme will begin later this year, led by the senior development team and the appointment of a project manager to strategically deliver the build, which is due to be completed in 2023 and open to the public.

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We are delighted to be taking part in Historic Houses’ #MedievalMondays initiative, to share special stories and pieces from our collections at Raby. For our latest theme, Betrothals and Marriages, we caught up with Castle Curator, Julie Biddlecombe-Brown to explore one of the most famous betrothals connected with Raby. Read on to find out more…

 

Raby Castle and the betrothal that changed the face of England

As the year 1423 turned to 1424, the youngest daughter of Ralph, Earl of Westmorland of Raby Castle and his wife, Joan Beaufort, half-sister to the King, was formally betrothed to her parents’ 13-year-old ward. No ordinary couple, the future bride and groom were Cecily Nevill and Richard Duke of York and their union, meticulously planned by her parents, heralded a politically strategic marriage that changed the course of British history.

Ralph, Joan and Cecily Nevill

Depictions of Ralph, Joan and Cecily Nevill in the Chapel at Raby Castle

The teenage Richard first met Cecily when he travelled to Raby Castle after his wardship was formalised. Unlike many aristocratic couples in the 15th century, they probably had the opportunity to get to know one another before their betrothal. The ceremony, which formally pledged their intent to marry when the bride came of age, took place in County Durham, either at Raby Castle or close by in Staindrop Church. The exact date of their marriage is not known but possibly after Cecily’s twelfth birthday in 1427. They were certainly married by 1429.  No evidence survives to confirm that the wedding took place at Raby although at least one of Cecily’s sisters was married in the chapel so it is possible that the young couple wed in her childhood home.

Chapel at Raby Castle

The Chapel at Raby Castle

The momentous impact of the betrothal and marriage of this young girl and teenage boy, rocked England during the decades that followed. Standing at the altar, the young couple could never have imagined the turbulent future that was to unfold. During their lifetimes they would become central to the Yorkist claim to the throne during the Wars of the Roses. During the lifetimes of their children, England witnessed some of the most destructive and divisive family relationships in its history; two of their sons became King and their grand-daughter a Queen through which the present day Royalty can trace its lineage.

 

We asked Annie Garthwaite, whose first novel Cecily will be released this summer, to reflect on Cecily and Richard’s betrothal at Raby, their marriage and relationship. Annie writes…

“Cecily’s was arguably the most brilliant of a series of dazzling marriages that Ralph and Joan made for their children. Cecily was betrothed late in 1423 at the age of eight to Richard Plantagenet, heir to the earldom of Cambridge and dukedom of York. It was a promising match, but not without risk for, as well as being heir to prestigious titles, Richard was also the son of a traitor. His father, Richard Earl of Cambridge, had been executed by Henry V in 1415 for his part in the Southampton plot. To secure his inheritance, the young Richard would have to win the favour of the present King Henry VI. Unless Henry confirmed Richard’s titles at his coming of age, he would not receive them and Cecily’s brilliant marriage would have lost its lustre. One can only imagine that Ralph took upon himself a mission to make a ‘king’s man’ of Richard, to imbibe him with Lancastrian loyalties, to ensure his smooth accession to his titles and, effectively, co-opt the wealth and prestige of those titles into his own family.

Two years later, both the brilliance of the marriage and its risks became greater still. When Richard’s maternal uncle Edmund Mortimer, the fifth earl of March, died childless in 1425, Richard became heir to a vast Mortimer inheritance. All good. However, that inheritance also brought with it a claim to the English throne that rivalled that of the present king. Henry VI took his royal claim from Edward III’s third son, John of Gaunt. Richard, meanwhile, could claim direct descent from Edward’s second son, Lionel Duke of Clarence, and his fourth, Edmund Duke of York.

The Nevill Gateway

The Nevill Gateway at Raby Castle, Cecily’s childhood home

The fact of Richard’s royal claim dogged their married life and though conspicuously loyal to Henry VI, Richard was always under suspicion. Despite this, Cecily’s closeness to Richard is evident. They spent time together whenever possible and she accompanied him on his travels to France and Ireland when royal duties took him there. She bore him twelve children, lost five in infancy, but succeeded in bringing four sons and three daughters to adulthood. She had a long wait for children, however. Though Richard and Cecily began their married life together in around 1431, she had to wait eight years, until 1439, to deliver a living child (a daughter, Anne) and another three to bring forth a son (Edward) that survived infancy. This must have been challenging. Of the many demands placed upon a medieval aristocratic woman, the greatest was to bear children. But there is no evidence that Cecily’s early failure in this regard led to any fracture in her marriage. She and Richard appear to have remained close during this time and, since there is no evidence that Richard owned any bastards, it seems likely he was faithful or, at least, discreet. Fortunately, after a slow start, Cecily’s childbearing potential – and her ability to deliver strong sons – became one of her most valuable assets.

Rumours emerged, later in Cecily’s life and after her husband’s death, that her eldest living son, by this time Edward IV, was not in fact Richard Duke of York’s child. Whilst these can’t be entirely disregarded, the story is unlikely and the evidence scant. It’s worth noting that the rumours emerged in the French court and while Cecily’s nephew, the Earl of Warwick, and second son, George Duke of Clarence, were in league with France in rebellion against Edward. Accusations of bastardy were effective weapons of war at a time when the right of kings depended upon legitimate descent.

But back to Cecily’s marriage. As her husband Richard’s loss of royal favour became increasingly serious, Cecily shows every sign of striving to revive it. Like Richard, she seems to been at pains to persevere in loyalty to the crown for as long as possible. In 1453, for example, she petitions Queen Marguerite on her husband’s behalf, begging no favour but that he be returned to the king’s good graces. However, it seems to me that, as matters progressed from bad to worse, Cecily must have come to recognise that she and Richard faced a stark choice – either to take power or be destroyed by it. As a wife and mother, and as a woman of high noble birth, I can well imagine she might have reached the conclusion that the only place of safety for her husband – and by extension, her sons – was on the throne.”

Annie Garthwaite with her debut novel, Cecily.

Annie Garthwaite with her debut novel, Cecily. Image credit: MNA Media


Annie Garthwaite’s debut novel Cecily, will be published by Penguin on 29 July and can be pre-ordered now from all good high street and online book retailers. You will also be able to pick up a copy from our Stables Shop at Raby Castle. We caught up with Annie for an exclusive Q&A to find out more about Cecily. This will be released on our blog soon.

To explore more Historic Houses themes from Raby, read our #FeatureFridays blog post.

Raby Castle is open Tuesday – Sunday from 11am.
The Park and Gardens are open daily from 10am – 4pm.
If you’d like to learn more about Cecily and see her portrait in the Chapel, you can book tickets to the Castle, Park and Gardens on our website.

To celebrate another glorious summer at Raby, our Estate Chef Tom Parry has shared a new recipe for Raby Redcurrant and Red Onion Relish for you to recreate at home.

This delicious sweet chutney will be served in our Stables Café and is perfect for every occasion, especially with our homemade sausage rolls.

Preparation time: 55 minutes

Serves: one 400 gram pot

Ingredients

  • 200g Red currants
  • 140g Light muscovado sugar
  • 200ml Red wine vinegar
  • 2 Medium red onions- peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 Medium red pepper- seeded and chopped
  • 2 Cloves of garlic
  • 20g Fresh ginger grated
  • 1 tsp Five spice
  • 1 Small red chilli, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

 

Method

  1. Roll the onions with red peppers and Olive Oil in a frying pan for 5-8 minutes over a high heat until lightly charred and softened. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Put the chilli, garlic and ginger in the pan with half the vinegar. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the onions and pepper plus remaining vinegar, all the sugar, spice and 1tsp salt.
  3. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes until thickened. Add redcurrants and simmer for about 5 minutes more.
  4. Remove and pour into a large heatproof jar and seal whilst hot.
  5. The relish will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Download our Raby Redcurrant & Red Onion Relish Recipe

Recipe by Estate Chef Tom Parry

High Force Hotel has opened the doors on its latest refurbishments following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Guests will notice a stylish new look in the bar and communal areas, bringing the interiors in line with the beautiful restoration of the Garden Room restaurant and function room, which was unveiled last year. The bar refurbishment is the final phase of work, which began with the redecoration of the original bedrooms and saw the creation of additional rooms. The hotel now has 11 individually designed en-suite bedrooms, offering luxurious guest accommodation.

We are looking forward to welcoming guests back to the hotel and restaurant and we are delighted that bookings for weddings and other special occasions have continued throughout lockdown, which means an exciting year ahead.

We caught up with Hotel Managers Andrew and George to find out what they are most looking forward to as they prepare to reopen the Hotel.

What are you most looking forward to when the Hotel reopens?

Andrew: Welcoming our guests back and providing our usual great service, working in our newly refurbished hotel. It will be lovely to have all the team back together.

George: Being busy, I love the fast pace of the hotel when its busy and I am looking forward to serving from our new bar which looks stunning.

The Hotel has been transformed over the last 12 months – do you have a favourite room or feature?

Andrew: It’s really hard to choose just one area as the Hotel has undergone such a transformation. I do love the new Garden Room, with its beautiful hand painted mural, especially when it is set for a wedding or an event. It’s just the most stunning room with lots of character and charm.

George: I love it all, but I really do like the new bar, which was the final area to be redesigned. I love the wood that it’s made from and the feeling of warmth the space has – it’s like it’s always been like this.  The tiles set into the back of the bar are really special – they were reclaimed from the Cooks Pantry in the Fish Yard at Raby Castle. The tiles are beautiful and will be a great talking point when we’re up late with residents chatting by the fire.

What can guests expect when they visit High Force this year?

Andrew: We want our guests to feel like they are staying home from home with attention to detail and the little luxuries that make a stay at High Force memorable.  The food is also a big part of visiting High Force, we guarantee that only the best local and responsibly sourced food will be served which will have been lovingly created by our passionate team.

George: Friendly, relaxed service in a comfortable and luxurious setting – our guests often leave as friends who will likely return time and time again.

The new Garden Room looks like a great place to enjoy a meal – which dish on the summer menu would you choose?

Andrew: That’s a difficult question as I really love everything on the menu at the moment.  The Raby Longhorn Steaks are just amazing though, so I would probably go for the Rib Eye.

George:  The Moules Frites, just lovely with warm bread, its my absolute favourite.

Raby High Force Hotel and Waterfall are open daily. For further information visit www.raby.co.uk/high-force

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When High Force Hotel reopens on Monday 17th May, guests will notice a stylish new look in the bar and communal areas, bringing the interiors in line with the beautiful restoration of the Garden Room restaurant and function room, which was unveiled last year.

The bar refurbishment is the final phase of work, which began with the redecoration of the original bedrooms and saw the creation of additional rooms. The hotel now has 11 individually designed en-suite bedrooms, offering luxurious guest accommodation.

The tiles that have been added to the bar at the High Force Hotel came from the Fish Yard at Raby Castle. Built in the 18th century, in 1971 an architectural report on the castle noted that the stone walls and windows of the fish yard had become unsafe and were likely to collapse. The Fish Yard was carefully demolished in 1975/76 and the tiles and decorative stone should be kept for future use.

Raby Castle, 1971 – the low curved fish yard can be seen behind the outer wall, between two towers.

The fish yard was a small, enclosed yard close to the kitchens of the castle and part of a range of working spaces which included larders and cook’s pantry. The high quality glazed tiles came from the Cook’s Pantry  – and not only marked the Cook’s status as an important member of the household staff, but also were a practical  addition – easy to wipe down and keep clean.

The blue and white glazed floral tiles date from the 18th century and are English delftware.  They may have been already salvaged and reused before adding them to the Cook’s Pantry. The tiles sat between picture panels, including the image of a woman wearing a crown and holding a sceptre, next to a peacock (below).

Tiles in situ in the Cook’s Pantry at Raby Castle, c. 1970

Almost 50 years later, some of the tiles have been given a new lease of life both at Raby Castle and in the recent renovations to the bar at the High Force Hotel.

Freshly grouted tiles set into the bar at High Force Hotel, March 2021.

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